Thursday, April 7, 2016

# 99 Easy Street, Part Ten. Louis Shalako.



You're not going to get a lot of sense out of a dead man.





Louis Shalako


“Well.” Detective O’Hara had his subject in the usual position.

It was all very informal.

“Oh, God.” Mark sat beside the desk with his head hanging.

“This is our lucky day, Mister Jones.” O’Hara’s voice had a humorous edge. “Some people remember you being at the park. And, as luck would have it, Mister Olivetti, according to the medical examiner, died right about the time you were playing the horn in Washington Square. One or two of the people we spoke with say you’re not bad, incidentally. They identified you from the mugshot easily enough. That’s almost pure luck. Some guys aren’t so lucky, Mister Jones. More to the point. His neighbours in the building seem to recall something that might have been a gunshot. Olivetti raised his hand—an understandable if futile response to a gun being pointed at you. There’s even glass fragments in the head wound. Ah, the bullet went through his wristwatch, if you can believe that. Anyways, Mark, he was killed at twelve-oh-six p.m., or on the lunch-hour, when the secretary was away.”

According to the lady, there had been a middle-aged white gentlemen waiting to speak with Olivetti in the anteroom. Roy had been on the phone with another potential client when the call had been abruptly cut off in mid-stride.

Mark sat up.

Home away from home...Adrian Grycuk, (Wiki.)
“What are you trying to say? And why didn’t she come back?” He’d shown up there some time after one, maybe even closer to two o’clock according to the dispatcher’s records.

“She had a doctor’s appointment. You’re a lucky son of a bitch, Mister Jones. Two people identified you from the elevator—and they were returning after lunch. It’s what we call evidence. Sometimes it doesn’t mean much, and I could think of a few objections if I set my mind to it. I won’t worry you with that right now. Here, let’s go and get your pants. We’re cutting you loose—again. At least for the meantime.” He pressed a small stud and pulled the keychain off of his belt. “As for your welfare and stuff like that, you should probably go and inquire at social services.”

“Does Olivetti have next of kin? An heir? Sooner or later someone’s got to come around, right? You know, like looking to collect next month’s rent, shit like that, right?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Mister Jones. Anyways, good luck to you.” That whole last bit seemed a bit uncharacteristic for one such as O’Hara. “It sort of plays in your favour, that’s what I think—a dead man can’t give you your money back, and you sure as hell don’t have any yourself.”

He went on.

"You seem to be in control of yourself, Mr. Jones. Good luck to you."
“You seem to be in pretty good control of yourself, and all of that sort of thing. You’ve been taking your meds and everything. Right?”

Marked nodded dumbly. It was a lie, of course.

“You don’t own a gun, do you?”

“Ah, no.”

“Well, there you go then.”

Mark sagged in relief, not quite believing what he was hearing.

O’Hara might have been getting old or something. Looking at retirement and time to reflect.

Everyone had a conscience of some sort.

Standing, Mark turned around and O’Hara took the cuffs off of his wrists.

In other words, they had no evidence and they also knew, somehow, perhaps sheer intuition on their part, that he hadn’t done it anyways. That wasn’t to say they wouldn’t keep him in mind, because they would. Otherwise they’d have had him down in the basement, working him over with rubber hoses, confession all typed-up and ready to go. Cops were nothing if not patient when it came to homicide.

“And my pants, sir?”

“Ah, yes, of course, young man.”

***

“Hey, Mark.”

“Oh, hey, Duke.”

The big guy was just coming out of number ninety-nine and Mark was just going in, having successfully woven through the obstacle course represented by a half a dozen teens and younger kids sitting on the base of the stairs. He stopped, a bit wobbly in the head and legs.

“I must have missed you, man. You’re a busy dude.”

Duke slept in as late as possible most days. His customers weren’t known as early risers for the most part. 

The last four years had turned Mark into a reluctant morning person after years of the night-owl sort of working life.

Duke really didn’t even sell much dope around the building. He had explained a bit of it to Mark.

His little beat included supplying some other small-time dealers. They worked out of their own places and had their own customers. Unless they ran out or something, in which case they might send someone his way—but only if Duke already knew the person and they didn’t owe money. Once you hit a certain point, you had to pay up before getting any more. On weekends he took in a few of the clubs, and in the afternoons and evenings, he took a stroll through one or two of the larger parks.

Duke liked to keep a low profile as he called it.

When in doubt, he’d run, ditch the stash and keep on going. Dope was only a small part of his business. There was a bit of white around his eyes that Mark couldn’t account for, and he seemed in a hurry, which was unusual for Duke.

“So, anyways—” It was a question.

“Ah, shit.” Mark exhaled, shrugged, rolling his eyes around in his head, something in his body language alerting Duke that he had a story to tell, but not in front of the children…please.

“Did you get a key? Where the hell you been, anyways.”

“Ah, no—not exactly.” Mark pulled him down the street a couple of yards. “I’ve been…occupied.”

It was the wrong word, and he flushed a bit with the frustration, but there were people just yards away and it was none of their business.

Duke tipped his head, silently reading the body language. There was a lot of tension there.

“Tell you what. I’m just nipping down to the store for a quart of milk. Some smokes, too. But I’ll be along, okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Duke.”

Head down, the collar of his tattered jean jacket up, Duke headed off up the street.

Mark sidestepped an elderly lady just coming out. The old girl moved slowly, burdened by empty but bulky shopping bags and a cane. This one even had the fruit salad all over her hat, quite the anachronism these days. If she lived here with that grey skin and fuzzy chin of hers, she was dreadfully poor and he felt sorry for her.

Mark went up the stairs to the fourth floor feeling marginally better about things.

Jorge Ryan, (Wiki.)
***

Someone had closed the window on the next floor. Mark wondered about that, and the stick was gone. Of course. It was bound to happen. They had no idea of who he was and they’d seen or heard him coming and going one too many times. He was going right past their front windows, for Christ’s sakes. He might be a pervert or a peeping Tom. A killer or a burglar. 

The people on both sides of the hall were in, certainly the ones at the front of the building, and there were odd, muted noises from all over.

Shit. He could only stand there so long.

He could wait for Duke to come back and pick the lock, or he could try getting out of the window with nothing to prop it up. That would involve going out on his back. The latch on the door a few feet back and on his right snapped open, startling him just as he was about to lift the window, which seemed the only way. He wasn’t too sure about that one. Life could be such a pain in the ass sometimes.

“Hey.” The door was on the chain and one beady little eye glared at him through the crack.

There was a two-inch gap. It was a blue-haired, little old lady wearing Victorian lace-up boots, poking out from under a very long dress that looked like a big grey sack, shapeless and loose.

“Ah, yeah, hey. I’m sorry about all this.” He tried to smile but his predicament was getting ridiculous.

“Scram. Beat it, punk.”

Mark flushed, but took a deep breath.

“Look, I’m sorry about all of this. It’s just that I live in three-oh-one and I don’t have a key. The window on my floor is glued shut or something—”

“Any asshole can say that. Besides, three-oh-one is vacant.”

“Not any more. I’m not an asshole, I’m Mark Jones. I’m your new neighbour.” With a grunt of disgust, Mark gave his head a shake, preparing to head for the stairwell. “I play the horn and I’m looking for gigs. Other than that, I pay my bills, stay out of trouble and don’t make problems for other people. Unless I have to. In fact, I’m a pretty good neighbour.”

Sometimes a little humour did the trick, but not this time. He was having trouble keeping his cool.

“Fuck you, Mister.” The door closed, leaving him few options.

That one would have shot him with no questions asked.

He had to shit something fierce. There was a tinge of anger lurking inside, and he went up one more level as quietly as possible. He was lucky enough to find that the hallway window was open on the fifth floor. These people at least had a stick for the window. It was the warm day with sunny skies.

It was really warm on this floor.

There was one more flight after that, God only knew where that one led. It might be the attic, it might be the roof. The stairs were wooden, and keeping them quiet was proving to be impossible. They were always going to squeak, but that booming was just nuts, a case of bad design or something. The people that designed some of these old places should have been shot and pissed-on.

Every floor up, the temperature seemed to go up by a few degrees. It would be sweltering up there in another month. As it was, it was merely warm, plus all that exercise on the stairs.

The view, straight down from that height, with nothing between your ass and the ground but a slender, wickerwork fabric of shitty old iron was something that had to be experienced. It wasn’t even the height so much, but it all had to be fastened somehow to tired old bricks and mortar. It really made you think when a section came out from the wall a half-inch or so and then returned to its previous positon as he went along. That was not going to last forever.

From ground level, it really didn’t look that high…not at all.

If he wasn’t afraid of heights before, he sure was now. Or maybe it was the depths. Maybe it was the distance, or maybe it was that sudden stop at the end.

***

His window was propped up on his new stick, a turned maple spreader that had actually fallen out of the more decrepit of his two chairs. He could have sworn he’d closed it, but it made things a bit easier as he crawled in over the sill. There was a lot to remember when you were out on your own. He’d been hoping to work his way back into it slowly. Without a place for the cat to shit, perhaps leaving it open was for the best.

The animal didn’t seem to be around. It usually came right out.

Hmn.

Standing up gratefully in his own home, his own living room, keeping things in perspective, he headed for the kitchen and a cup of coffee or something.

What he really needed was a sense of proportion.

As usual, his guts were grumbling and making quite the ruckus, stimulated no doubt by the lingering aroma of bacon and eggs from yesterday.

He’d rolled up the hose for the waterbed, but some odd watery sounds caught his attention, already a bit strained after yet another fucking night in a holding cell. That concrete bed in the holding facility was really something. People yelling and screaming and crying and beating their heads against the bars all night long. The smell of shit, piss and puke. Sweat and unwashed humanity. That, was really something. With his heart up in his mouth, he strode into the bedroom. Feeling all around the base of the mattress, it seemed dry and there was no water on the floor. Mark had always been quiet, a model prisoner in so many ways.

Going out and around through the kitchen, he saw the bathroom light was on. He could have sworn he’d turned it off, but the electricity was included and it wasn’t a big priority. The door was mostly closed and there were more watery sounds. If there was a damned leak, he was in a lot of trouble with Olivetti gone.

The wind must have blown the door shut…



“Jesus!”

A very naked and very surprised Amy turned, sighting him in the mirror and then she screamed as if her head was on fire.



(End of excerpt.)


Readers may also enjoy The Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mystery Series, available in ebook and paperback from Amazon and other fine retailers.

Comments and questions are always welcome.


Thanks for reading.


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